PHOTO BY BEN LEESON/THE SUDBURY STAR/POSTMEDIA NETWORK
FRENCH RIVER – Trailing by three goals with under two and a half minutes remaining in regulation, the French River Rapids stormed back with three unanswered tallies to tie it, then notched the lone marker in the shootout, to stun the Espanola Express and pull out an incredible 6-5 come from behind victory in Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League action Tuesday evening at Noelville Arena.
In the NOJHL’s first on-ice match-up since back on December 22 of last year, it was the visiting Express who kicked off the night’s scoring as Luke Bibby, parked on top of the crease, neatly redirected a Jordan Ritchie attempt towards the net from the right side past French River starter Ben Montgomery.
It was more from the Express midway through the first period after Bradley Brunet engineered a rush from his own zone before skating into Rapids territory and putting a pass on the left wing to a on-rushing Bibby who promptly whipped a high-rising shot that found the corner and put the guests up by a pair.
Countering late in the frame, the Rapids’ Leo Chambers found himself alone at the top of the crease where he had two whacks at it before put past Espanola goaltender Owen Willis to collect his first NOJHL goal and cut the deficit in half.
Moving to the middle stanza, the visitors went up by a pair at 2:56 as Cole Delarosbil grabbed a rebound off a Josh Boucher shot and stuffed one into the open side.
Answering again, the Rapids moved back to within one three and a half minutes later when Quinn Martellacci jammed in his first league marker off a wrister courtesy of Ty Chambers from the high slot.
Back and forth they went, with the Express going up 4-2 at 16:45 of the session that saw Delarosbil bury his second of the period as he outwaited a sprawled Montgomery and snapped one in, blocker side.
In the final frame, the score stayed the same deep into it where the Rapids pulled their goaltender late and also picked up a pair of power plays to go up two skaters in an effort to draw closer.
However, a long-range empty netter from A.J. Favot extended the Express cushion and seemingly put the game away.
Still on a lengthy man advantage though, French River’s Bowman converted from the left of the crease at 17:48 to bring the hosts back to just two down.
Undaunted, French River clicked on the man advantage once more, thanks to Jack Tos, then picked up the equalizer with 1:32 to go as Chambers provided his second of the night.
In extra shots, the first seven chances were foiled by the netminders before Bowman buried the winner with a snap shot from between the hash marks to give the home side the amazing win.
Ryan Smith supplied three assists in the comeback triumph for French River.
Shots on goal in the contest favoured the Rapids by a 44-35 count with Montgomery getting the win while Willis suffered the defeat.
The two teams meet again Wednesday in a 6 p.m. start at the Espanola Regional Recreation Complex, with the contest scheduled to be available on HockeyTV.com.